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263 Mentally Prepared

 "Where is Dou Qingyan?" Zhao Liangze was now in full interrogation mode. "Mr. Dou, are you sure you want to pick a fight with the Special Operations Forces?"

Dou Haoyan was the Prime Minister's son, but he was not his father, not by a long shot. He "worked" in a consulting company, but his position was entirely superfluous and he spent most of his time idling at his desk. He was powerless in front of Zhao Liangze; in fact, Dou Haoyan was even less qualified than Huo Shaoheng's head orderly, Fan Jian.

Dou Haoyan wanted to say something, but he saw Zhao Liangze's face darken and immediately forgot how to speak.

He could only stare helplessly at Zhao Liangze, and at the soldiers that had set up a perimeter around the Prime Minister's residence. He finally realized what was happening: the Dou family was at a disadvantage. They had to hand over Dou Qingyan, or risk losing it all!

His father, especially!

"She... she's in the backyard... in the parking lot," said Dou Haoyan between clenched teeth. He pointed to the back door.

"Thank you, Mr. Dou." Zhao Liangze relayed what Dou Haoyan had said into the mouthpiece of his headset: "The target is in the rear parking lot of the Prime Minister's official residence. I will be there shortly."

"Understood." Fan Jian and his team were already lying in wait outside the Prime Minister's official residence, near the back entrance.


Dou Qingyan, wrapped in a fur coat, hurried after her mother to the rear parking lot. Her eyes were red and puffy.

"Go, Qingyan, and don't come back." Mrs. Yan's eyes were also red from crying. "I shouldn't have gotten those photos for you. I didn't think they would cause you so much trouble..."

"Mommy, don't cry. It's all my fault, I'm sorry." Dou Qingyan was afraid, and the fear coursing through her had finally snapped her out of her obsession with Huo Shaoheng. But it was too late-she had messed up, big time. Even if she were able to get out of the country, she would never be able to return, and she knew that she would never again fantasize about getting together with Huo Shaoheng.

She had pretended to be Huo Shaoheng's fiancée while on a mission in Europe. The mission had spanned six months, and she had fallen hopelessly in love with Huo Shaoheng then. She had assumed Huo Shaoheng felt the same way about her.

Many of their predecessors had eventually gotten married after pretending to be a couple.

But Huo Shaoheng was different. As soon as they finished their mission and returned to the Empire, Huo Shaoheng immediately dropped the act and refused to have anything to do with her.

She had wept, thrown a tantrum, and even tried to commit suicide-there was still a deep scar on her wrist from her failed attempt to take her own life. She had virtually lost her mind over Huo Shaoheng.

Her father was the Prime Minister, but not even the Prime Minister could force Huo Shaoheng to love her.

Huo Shaoheng was a military man, after all, and reported directly to General Ji. Prime Minister Dou was powerful, but he wasn't powerful enough to influence General Ji.

In the end, Dou Qingyan's parents had been left with no choice but to secretly engage someone to help them get a copy of the confidential prop photos taken during her mission with Huo Shaoheng, so she would have something to remember him by.

She had laid low abroad, under an assumed identity, and the photos had been her sole pillar of support over the last several years.

Dou Qingyan was consumed with regret. Her years of wishful thinking had gone up in smoke overnight, and she had probably dragged her family into the mess.

"I'm sorry, Mommy. I won't do it again." Dou Qingyan held onto her mother's hands as she dissolved into another round of weeping.

"My poor little girl! Hurry and go, or it'll be too late." Mrs. Yan hurried to bundle her into the car, but it was too late.

The sound of boots marching in perfect time reverberated throughout the parking lot.

A squad of fully-armed soldiers marched into view; their uniforms indicated that they were the Special Ops military police, in charge of internal affairs. They surrounded the two women.

"Dou Qingyan, you are suspected of fabricating evidence and of character assassination. You are now under arrest, this is the arrest warrant." Zhao Liangze walked over to her and showed both mother and daughter the arrest warrant.

Dou Qingyan's frayed nerves had been stretched to the limit. They finally snapped, and she collapsed in a dead faint to the ground.

Zhao Liangze was utterly unfazed; he was not the type to treat a suspect or criminal kindly just because she was a woman. He gestured to the soldiers. "Take them away."

Both Dou Qingyan and her mother, Mrs. Yan, were taken away by the Special Ops' inspectors.

"Mission accomplished. The target has been arrested. Over."

"Roger that."


The guests gathered in the hall of the Prime Minister's official residence stared at one another. No one was brave enough to be the first to speak up and attract attention.

He Zhichu leisurely made his way to the front of the crowd. "I'm not a citizen of the Huaxia Empire. What grounds do you have for arresting me?"

"Professor He, we aren't arresting you. We're just asking you to come with us to assist in our investigation." Huo Shaoheng walked over to him with his hands clasped behind his back. He looked impassively at He Zhichu. "Your assistant will have to come with us, too."

To Huo Shaoheng's surprise, He Zhichu did not put up a fight. "Fine with me. I've been wanting to see for myself the kind of environment Nianzhi was brought up in." He followed Huo Shaoheng's orderly to the van waiting outside.

The other guests saw how cooperative He Zhichu was being, and knew they had to follow his example. They obediently got into the van as well.

The impromptu New Year's dinner at the Prime Minister's residence ended with all the guests being led away by the Special Operations Forces to "assist in ongoing investigations." It immediately became the first trending gossip of the year.


Gu Nianzhi stared at the black screen on her phone. The video feed had just ended, and she suddenly realized that her legs had turned to jelly.

She steadied herself on the bed frame and lowered herself to the soft, fluffy wool carpet on the floor. Her eyes were glazed and unfocused, and she could not remember how to speak.

It was a long moment before she finally called Huo Shaoheng on his phone.

Huo Shaoheng had just returned to his residence and was still sitting in his car when he received Gu Nianzhi's call. He quickly took the call, and asked in a calm and soothing voice: "What is it, Nianzhi?"

Gu Nianzhi took a deep breath. She had fallen into an abyss of despair, but Huo Shaoheng's voice was like an electrifying jolt to her heart. "Huo Shao... I just watched a live video feed of the Prime Minister's official residence..."

"...You saw it? Who showed it to you?" Huo Shaoheng frowned as he stepped out of his car. He had been utterly calm and composed when arresting the suspects, but the thought of Gu Nianzhi having somehow witnessed everything that had happened worried him.

Gu Nianzhi checked her phone. "I don't know. Someone called me, and I took the call because it was the C City Special Ops base number. Then it turned out to be a live video feed..."

"A phone call from the Special Ops in C City?" Huo Shaoheng could not resist laughing. "Looks like we missed someone, and they just had to rub it in our faces." So he had let one of the fish slip out of his net...

There was a moment's silence as he considered his next step. "Don't move. I'll go get you."

Gu Nianzhi nodded. She hung up, put away her phone, and sat on the carpet before her bed. She hugged her knees and stared into the distance.

She was still sitting in the exact same pose, looking dazed and stupefied, when Huo Shaoheng entered the room.

He knelt before her and gently lifted her chin. "What's wrong?"

Gu Nianzhi looked blankly at him. "Huo Shao, now everyone knows..."

The photos had cut her deeply; she had grabbed Dou Qingyan's phone at the first opportunity and run off with it because she did not want anyone else to see the photos.

But it had all been in vain-Dou Qingyan had backed up her photos, and now they had been exposed for all the world to see!

She knew the photos were fake, but so many people had seen Huo Shaoheng's "intimate" moments with Dou Qingyan now, and the thought alone was enough to send Gu Nianzhi over the edge...

"So what?" Huo Shaoheng helped her smooth her disheveled hair. "Did you honestly think I'd have to marry her just because of that?"

Gu Nianzhi hastily shook her head. She knew Huo Shaoheng was not the type to be blackmailed or coerced into doing things he didn't want to; nevertheless, the photos had received widespread attention. She wasn't dumb enough to think this wasn't going to negatively affect Huo Shaoheng.

"When are you going to tell everyone the truth?" Gu Nianzhi grabbed Huo Shaoheng's arm as she anxiously asked: "You're going to tell the truth, right?"

Huo Shaoheng had told her that the photos were props for a mission. Each and every one of the photos had been staged.

Gu Nianzhi was certain that all he had to do was publicly disclose the truth behind the photos, and the Dou family would no longer be able to pressure him into marrying Dou Qingyan by manipulating public opinion.

Huo Shaoheng was silent for a moment. He looked into her eyes, and pulled her up from the carpet. He led her over to the two-seater sofa next to the bed, where they both sat.

"Nianzhi, Dou Qingyan committed a serious crime. I've already obtained an arrest warrant from the military court." Huo Shaoheng held her hand as he looked into her eyes. "But you have to be mentally prepared for what's coming next."

"Mentally prepared? What for?" Gu Nianzhi was even more confused. Her eyes widened. "She committed a crime, but I haven't done anything wrong. Why do I have to be mentally prepared?"